Every weekend, it seems, there’s another terrific festival or flat-out party going on in Sonoma County. One of the best comes in March, when Petaluma hosts the California Artisan Cheese Festival, featuring farm and creamery tours, hands-on lessons in cheesemaking, and tastings of local cheese, wine, beer, and cider.
In May, you can feed your appetite for art with open studio tours during the annual Salmon Creek ArtWalk in Bodega Bay. And in June, the annual Beerfest, at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa is your chance to sip some of Northern California’s finest brews and ciders from more than 60 breweries and cideries.
Sonoma County locals haven’t forgotten how to celebrate some of their more humble exports though, or the fact that sometimes you just have to turn up the volume. They celebrate a local apple varietal at August’s Gravenstein Apple Fair with tractor rides and pie eating, and rock out at September’s Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival, held at Johnson's Beach in Guerneville.
All year long, different Sonoma County wine regions hold open houses, such as April’s Passport to Dry Creek Valley, and Taste Alexander Valley in May. For the crown jewel, visit over Labor Day weekend for the Taste of Sonoma, when thousands of guests join chefs, wineries, and artisan food purveyors for three full days of wine tastings, elaborate meals, and the Sonoma County Wine Auction.
Harvest time is one of the best times to visit a winery, to embrace the energy of sorting, stemming, and wine-crafting.
Still, harvest season (early September through mid-November) is a popular time to visit Sonoma County, when you can embrace the energy of sorting, stemming, and wine-crafting—and sometimes even participate in grape stomps. During this time of year, workers converge on the vineyards from dawn to dusk, and tourism is at its peak as well, so take that into consideration when timing your trip. For many wineries, the work actually runs around the clock, with innovators like Jordan Winery in Healdsburg picking fruit through the chilly nights. After all, keeping grapes cold protects their delicate flavors, as well as the pristine skin and pulp.
Some wineries celebrate the season by hosting pre- or post-crush parties with wine tasting, food, and live music. The Dry Creek Valley region hosts a slew of classy tastings and events, such as the Wine and Food Affair, when more than 100 wineries pair special wines with dishes they prepare and serve on-site. To really dive in, Sonoma Valley Crush invites guests to get hands-on over a September weekend at 15 area wineries, with one-of-a-kind, behind-the-scenes looks at every aspect of winemaking, from picking grapes and juicing to fermentation.
During the holiday season, enjoy wine, food, and live music in the courtyard of the Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma as you witness the Lighting of the Snowmen. Also in December, the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens gets in the holiday spirit with spiced tea and other holiday treats. Tour the home, greenhouse and gardens of the famous horticulturalist while it’s decked out in its holiday finest, amidst reveling carolers.